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Instructional Strategies > Literacy

Five Steps to Becoming More Text-Dependent

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It’s a strange term, this “text-dependency” thing.  But it makes a lot of sense.   The creators of the Common Core have been pretty explicit:  kids need to ground their responses about a text, whether it’s in a discussion or a piece of writing, by citing specific evidence from the text.  But how do we, as teachers, get them to do it?

Here are 5 strategies that, if employed with frequency, will guarantee that you are creating a climate of text-dependency.  I’d bet that most of us are already doing most of these to some degree; the trick is to make this daily practice, ideally across disciplines.

Tip #1:   Read aloud.  There’s no better way to assess students’ comprehension of the text that reading it with them and stopping to assess their understanding along the way.

 Tip #2:   Make sure your pre-reading questions and activities don’t “give away the goods.”  If you are reading a piece where students should slowly uncover a character’s prejudices, a framing question such as, “Have you ever experienced prejudice?” will make the hard work of discovery way too easy.

Tip #3:  Work through the text chronologically.  That way you’ll be better able to track an author’s argument in a logical fashion.

Tip #4:  Annotate the text whenever possible.  A good rule?  No clean copies!  Students can mark what they don’t understand, what they relate to, or even better, evidence of an author’s strategies:  claims, evidence, cause and effect, transitions, and counterarguments.

Tip #5:  Make sure that both your questions and your students’ responses refer back to the text.  If a student says, “the author seems angry,” ask the student to point to where in the text she noticed this.  And ask them to look at specific points of the text whenever possible.  Make frequent use of this phrase:  “What does the author want us to see when he  writes . . . “

Coming soon:  text-dependent question stems.

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